Peru: President Martin Vizcarra survives impeachment vote

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Peru’s President Martin Vizcarra has survived an impeachment vote after opposition legislators could not remove him from office.

On Friday September 18, 2020, for about 10 hours, the legislators unsuccessfully debated the removal of Vizcarra.

The opposition-dominated Congress needed 87 votes out of 130 to remove the president. In the end, only 32 legislators voted for the removal of the president.

The Congress voted last week to begin impeachment proceedings against Vizcarra, on the grounds of “moral incapacity” over alleged links to a little-known singer involved in a case of irregular government contracts.

Vizcarra, who does not have his own party representation in the legislature, struck a defiant tone earlier on Friday in a 20-minute speech to Congress, saying the country should not be “distracted” from real challenges.

“I do not hide, I have not done so before and I am not going to do it now. I am here, with my head high and my conscience clear,” said the 57-year-old leader.

“It is very serious to have the country plunged into this uncertainty,” he added.

At the centre of the crisis is Vizcarra’s relationship with a musician known as Richard Cisneros and nearly $50,000 in questionable contracts that the entertainer was given by the Ministry of Culture for activities like motivational speaking.

A covert audio recording shared by Edgar Alarcon – a legislator himself charged with embezzlement – appears to show Vizcarra coordinating a defence strategy with two aides, trying to get their stories straight on how many times the musician had visited him.

The deals with Cisneros, who is also known as Richard Swing, are being investigated by the parliament and Peru’s auditor general. Cisneros was involved in the campaign of Pedro Pablo Kuczynski, who resigned as president in 2018 and was replaced by Vizcarra, then the vice president.

In his remarks before Congress, Vizcarra asked for forgiveness for the upheaval the audios have generated, but insisted he committed no crime. He also called for a proper investigation.

During the long day of debate, many legislators expressed frustration with Vizcarra, but they also questioned whether a rushed impeachment process would only create more turmoil in the middle of a health and economic crisis.

“It’s not the moment to proceed with an impeachment which would add even more problems to the tragedy we are living,” said legislator Francisco Sagasti.

Vizcarra had claimed that the move was a plot by Congress, which was elected in January after the president dissolved the previous parliament last year in the middle of a fight with the opposition over his anti-corruption reforms.

A recent Ipsos poll showed that 79 percent of Peruvians would prefer that Vizcarra fulfil his mandate until mid-next year following elections set to take place in April.

The president had also accused the speaker, Manuel Marino, of “conspiracy” by trying to secure military assurances for a bid to succeed him.

Source: News Agency.

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